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This Ring

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The clock on Jack’s desk ticks away the seconds, time is creeping onwards no matter how much he wishes it would stop. He’d thought he was prepared for this but now when it comes down to it, he really, really isn’t. He turns the card in his hands over and over compulsively, its crisp edges softening under the constant motion of his fingers as he stares, unseeing, at the wall. Once again the world is moving on around him, people are growing, changing and leaving him behind. In the grand scheme of things this is a tiny, insignificant event that will be remembered by no-one a hundred years from now; no-one but Jack, who will carry it with him forever.

He should go, if he doesn’t leave now he’ll be late and yet somehow he finds he can’t move. Gwen has been threatening him on a daily basis, her descriptions of what will happen to him if he doesn’t show up growing more graphic and more creative with each round. In other circumstances he might be impressed. In the end though he knows she will understand, will forgive him, because she always does. Ianto on the other hand…

He lets the card slip from his fingers and his head fall to rest in his hands, breathing slow and deep through the sudden ache of loneliness. The bottle in his bottom drawer is calling and it would be so easy to slink down to his room and drink himself into a blissful, forgetful stupor. It won’t help in the long run though, he knows from experience that the pain will only be worse when he wakes, all the more so for the added guilt and regret. Minutes pass, the Hub eerily quiet, empty and cold until Myfanwy squawks overhead and Jack’s eyes snap open. The card has fallen face down; the single word scrawled on the back is a stark contrast to the elegant, flowing script on the other side.

Please

Time seems to unlock around him and suddenly he’s moving, snatching up the card, shrugging into his coat. Hard as this will be he knows he will regret it in the end if he doesn’t go. He will not break Ianto’s heart, though Ianto has already broken his.

...

“Jack I… um… I’ve met someone.”

“Oh? Met someone as in..?”

“Yes. I think it could be, yes. ”

...

Ianto turns as another car approaches though he already knows from the sound that it is not the one he’s looking for. Gwen waves to him from the passenger side as Rhys negotiates the turn into the small parking area.

“God, look at you!” Gwen exclaims as she tumbles excitedly from the vehicle, “Ianto Jones I swear if I weren’t already married…” She trails off, reaching out to squeeze his hand in greeting.

Rhys is barely more restrained, grinning from ear to ear as he approaches. “Alright mate? Sorry we’re a bit late, got held up at the roundabout.”

Ianto receives the handshake and back-pat with a smile but he can’t hide his distraction for long.

“Jack not here yet then?” Gwen observes quietly, a steely note in her voice.

Ianto simply shakes his head, suddenly unable to trust his voice. Gwen sighs and Rhys looks awkward.

“Simon inside?” Rhys enquires and Ianto points him in the direction of the door. Rhys and Simon got on like a house on fire, something for which Ianto would be eternally grateful.

Gwen wraps an arm around his, pressing close against his side. “He’ll be here love, you know what Jack’s like, probably got a weevil alert at the last minute; bet you ten quid he’ll come crashing in half way through covered in sewer muck and scare the life out of everyone.” Her tone is falsely cheerful, she doesn’t believe a word of it either but Ianto is grateful for the effort all the same.

Gwen had surprised them all after they lost Tosh and Owen. She was stronger than they’d given her credit for, holding them together, making sure they remembered to eat and that they saw the sun at least once a week. The three of them had spent long nights reminiscing together, finding comfort in the simple presence of people who understood. She’d been there for him when he couldn’t talk to Jack, when he’d met Simon and hadn’t known what to do. She’d grieved the end of one relationship with him even as they celebrated the start of another. She’d become his best friend and there was no-one he’d rather have by his side today.

Well, almost no-one.

They stand in silence for a few minutes, lost in thought until Gwen gives another sigh and pulls away.

“I’d better go and find Rhys before he persuades your man to break out the booze early.” She gives his hand another squeeze and he waves her on with a smile.

Ten minutes later he is still standing alone on the steps, his hat in his hands and he worries fretfully at the brim as he waits. Everyone else is here but there’s no sign of Jack. He understands, he does, but still he’d hoped… A touch at his elbow startles him and he turns to find Simon standing patiently beside him. Gentle hands extract the hat from his and replace it on his head, brush non-existent lint from his shoulders and smooth his already flat collar.

“The registrar’s getting impatient. What do you want to do?” Simon’s voice is as gentle as his hands.

Ianto turns fully and lifts a hand to brush Simon’s cheek. Simon has been endlessly patient with him, with his insecurities and his secrets; he accepts that there are things which Ianto cannot tell him and others that he’s just not ready to yet. It’s a relief sometimes to have someone who doesn’t know everything, someone who can comfort and heal all the better precisely because he wasn’t there, isn’t broken himself by those same experiences, or worse. Simon had said right at the start, when Ianto had still been so unsure of what he wanted, that he would wait as long it took and Ianto suspects that he would wait even now, would postpone this event they’ve been planning for and looking forwards to for months, if Ianto asked it of him. He is so full of love for this man he thinks he might never find the words to express it.

He trails his hand round to the back of Simon’s neck and pulls him in, kissing him softly before backing away just enough that he can focus properly. “I love you, and I want to spend the rest of my life with you, starting today.”

Simon smiles that gorgeous, lazy smile that lights up his face and steps forwards, winding his arms around Ianto and holding him close. “I love you too.”

They stand like that for a moment, reeling slightly with the enormity of what they are about to do, to become, and then Ianto steps back, still smiling, takes Simon’s hand in his and whispers, “Let’s go.”

...

“What’s this?”

“Jack....”

Silence, a sigh.

“This is what you want?”

“Yes, yes it is, he is.”

...

Jack pushes the door open as quietly as possible but, late as he is, there is no chance of entering unnoticed. Gwen turns in her seat to glare at him but her expression softens at his poorly concealed distress, as she realises just what it is costing him to be here. All eyes have turned to him now but Jack only has eyes for Ianto, tall and elegant in his dove-grey morning suit, paused in the act of sliding a gold band onto a finger.

Tense silence reigns as they stand, gazes locked, in this endless moment. There are no words, they’ve said them all before, many times, but Ianto asked him to be here and here he is. From somewhere Jack finds the strength of will to nod, a gesture of acceptance, of support and Ianto responds with a flicker of a smile which says thank-you and I’m sorry and so much more before turning back to the man beside him.

“This ring is a token…”